Punched Puppet Cabaret

Punched Puppet Cabaret was at the Marlborough Theatre Pub, a stones throw away from Brighton's famous pier. Puppetry has a great history in Brighton, most famously seaside favourite Punch, who featured in this festive cabaret in Touched Theatre's alternative retelling of the Christmas nativity.

Bursting with new material, a puppet cabaret is a fantastic way to see real unique or experimental puppetry and work in development. There is magic in seeing raw work in an intimate venue that is very inspiring as an artist, and entertaining as an audience. At Punched Puppet Cabaret there was a wide variety of acts from hand shadows to classic glove puppetry, humanette and a whole host of shadow puppetry. The beauty of cabaret is that you have no idea what you will see. You’ve bought a ticket for an experience, not knowing what performance will follow the next. I think it’s important to remember you may not like every act you see, but in the spirit of cabaret puppetry that only gives you more to talk about in the bar afterwards.

From the moment we enter we are taken on our journey by our host, Miranda, the table top, papier-mâché drag puppet. She gets the whole audience involved, exhibiting a droll sense of humour as she leads us through cracker jokes and festive pass-the-parcel.

The highlights of the show were Drew Colby's charming "Me and My Shadow" and the grotesquely funny Tooth and Claw puppetry short, "Up the Wizard's Sleeve."

Drew Colby's hand shadow puppetry, what he describes himself as “hand shadowgraphy,” was entrancing and like nothing I’ve seen before. It had me watching with true awe. On stage his personality truly shined through, allowing the audience to relax and be amazed. It was especially fun to play 'guess the film' as Drew took the audience through some familiar hollywood favourites. The winner had the chance to go on stage and learn some “hand-shadowgraphy” themselves demonstrating clearly how difficult this type of puppetry really is.

Tooth and Claw Puppetry brought the weird subversion I secretly craved. After some other acts were fairly safe and unfortunately similar to each other, Tooth and Claw took a risk to present something potentially divisive of the audience and quite experimental. Wonderfully grotesque puppets with excess limbs, made of bits of bones and scraps, told a story of underground wizards, dastardly kidnap and dingy sex dungeons. The story conveyed the puppeteers' wild imaginations and unique senses of humour extremely well, in a short time. The piece was altogether so wrong it was right.

The true art of cabaret puppetry is fitting a whole story or concept into as little as five minutes. It's a wonderful opportunity for any artist experimenting with an idea. Each cabaret I’ve been to myself has had a different vibe: Smoking Puppet Cabaret in Bristol, whose close puppetry community nurtures such inspiring ideas, Queer Puppets Cabaret in Folkestone, whose artists take puppetry and subvert it into something weird and disturbing and Punched Cabaret which takes the seaside heritage of puppetry and mixes it with their experimental community. A fantastic night out, each in their own way.


Drew Colby, Tooth and Claw Puppetry. 


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